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County installs safety features on N. Meridian Road after 2 high school students die in crash

Published: Jun. 29, 2021 at 6:20 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - New safety enhancements are in place on North Meridian Road after a unanimous vote by Leon County Commissioners.

Leon County Commissioner Brian Welch pushed for the construction after a fatal crash at the end of March that killed two Chiles High School students.

Caden Staats and Makayla Campa died from their injuries after the SUV they were in ran off the road and rammed into trees around 4:00 a.m. March 29th.

“It’s particularly treacherous. It’s got some curves and some elevation changes,” said Commissioner Welch. “Young people are our greatest resources and any time we lose them, it’s particularly tragic. And no parent wants to get that phone call.”

The reverse curve, also called an “s” curve, on North Meridian Road runs from Gardner Road to the Summerbrooke neighborhood, about 0.65 miles.

The County put down retroreflective pavement markers leading up to the curve, starting at 40 feet apart, then increasing to 20 feet apart, then 10 feet apart on the curve itself.

Leon County crews also constructed chevron sign markers around the curve to enhance its visibility.

The Commissioners’ unanimous vote took place at the June meeting.

“Those accidents have been really tragic. And I really appreciate your leadership in taking this on,” said Commission Chair Rick Minor to Welch.

According to the County’s agenda item, the s curve has had 16 crashes in the last 3 years.

50% of those crashes were off road or lane departures. 25% were animal related, and the other 25% were rear end collisions or alcohol related.

Of those 16, 11 were at night, and 4 cited wet pavement as a contributing factor.

The agenda item cites long segments of straight roadway on Meridian that allow cars to speed up and then underestimate the curve.

Commissioner Welch says North Meridian Road, along with other canopy roads such as Miccosukee and Centerville, presents a unique challenge because there is no opportunity for additional streetlights.

“The canopy roads can’t be widened. The trees that run along the canopy roads pose a particular danger. It’s particularly dark,” said Welch. “I certainly notice the danger along those roads throughout my 25 years in the northeast and certainly want to do whatever we can to make them as safe as possible. As we continue to see development and growth and more folks moving into the Northeast, we’re drastically restricted with our canopy roads.”

Welch says traffic safety in the northeast is one of his priorities on the Commission.

“I would encourage everybody that no matter what kind of safety enhancements are made, the ultimate thing you can do to ensure safety is to slow down,” said Welch.

More than 6,500 vehicles travel on that stretch of North Meridian road each day; the improvements cost about $6,000.

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